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Dragonfly helps kids shine

Special fashion show sees 29 unique models hit the runway for charity
Candace Hayward (middle) received a helping hand from volunteers Marleen Keen (left) and Richard Xiang (right) to walk down the runway at the Uniquely Fashionable Fashion Show hosted by Dragonfly Pond Society and the Penticton and District Community Resource Society May 22 at the Penticton Ramada.

Showing off her recently learned model pose, Ravneet Aujla absolutely beams while talking about her experience strutting down the catwalk.

“It was fun and made me feel pretty good,” said Aujla. “I liked it when everyone was cheering and clapping for us.”

While she wasn’t parading clothes on a runway in Milan, London or New York for fashion week, for her it felt like it. The 14-year-old was among 29 models with complex care needs and disabilities that took the spotlight at the Uniquely Fashionable Fashion Show hosted by Dragonfly Pond Society and the Penticton and District Community Resource Society last week at the Ramada.

Showcasing their style, smiles and determined energy, the event was about promoting inclusion and diversity in the South Okanagan.

“A child with a disability doesn’t have ballet recitals, hockey games or soccer matches and not a lot puts them in the spotlight,” said Traci Fladager, program co-ordinator. “This event did just that so parents, family and friends could come out and watch these kids shine, and they sure did.”

Dragonfly Pond Family Society is a collaboration of parents, professionals and community partners whose mandate is to provide services for families with children 0 to 18 years old who have complex care needs and/or disabilities and who live in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region.

After Fladager was left a “blubbering mess” having watched a YouTube video of a similar fashion show in the U.S., she knew it would be a great event for Dragonfly Pond. The board of directors agreed and work began on planning the show over a year ago with Penticton and District Community Resource Society.

They were awarded a Youth Grant Initiative though the United Way and in January they dug in with rehearsals, organizing and making decorations in preparation to host the fashion show. The Bay, Bodies on Power, Le Cheap C’est Chic, Peekaboo Beans, Dead Fish Reconstruction, Suburban Princess, The GrooveYard and other clothiers stepped in to help outfit the models.

Hair, makeup and professional photos were all donated by community businesses.

While some items of clothing in each model’s outfit were donated, the grant money allowed Dragonfly Pond to purchase the rest for each person modelling them.

One of the teens participating as a greeter and host has already promised to host the fashion show next year.

Fladager said Hector Grieg, the youth group representative and honorary board member, has used Dragonfly’s services since he was five years old.

This year he graduates from Pen High.

“He is an amazing role model for the younger kids through his volunteering, organizing and hosting this event,” said Fladager, of the teen who helped write the application for the United Way grant.

Dragonfly Pond strictly works with kids up to the age of 18 years old, but the fashion show was opened up to young adults.

“Many of the young adults went through our programs as children. It showed many of these parents who might have a newly diagnosed child that might be thinking the future looks scary that there are individuals out there enjoying life and doing great things,” said Fladager.

She also praised the help of Penticton high school leadership groups who provide support for the Dragonfly Pond programs.

“A lot of them are the same age as the kids and know them from school. This generation is totally going to bridge the gap and that is going to be amazing,” said Fladager.

Dragonfly Pond is gearing up for their summer programs running at the Community Centre including swimming and gym activities to work on fine and gross motor skills and allow children the chance to meet new friends.

The summer programs are free for all family members that are part of Dragonfly Pond.

Fladager said they also are planning an art program later this summer thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation.